Life after university can present a number of tough challenges, such as moving to a new location or dealing with (short-term) unemployment. No matter what lies ahead, God remains faithful to us and uses all circumstances to transform us into the image of Christ.
It’s easy to think that life after university will be much better. No more exams or essays, no more grimy student digs, and (best of all) enough money to live on. However, unless we are realistic about this transition then life after university can come as a bit of a shock.
Rachel B is a nurse in a critical care unit. She studied in Cardiff and Sheffield.
Tim studied in Blackpool and works for a new media design company in London.
Rachel H studied in Oxford and works for a firm of solicitors in London.
What is the hardest thing about being a Christian in your workplace?
Tim It’s really hard to actually live out your life as a Christian when everyone around you is obsessed with alcohol and money. The culture of materialism is incredibly strong.
Rachel B It’s difficult believing in and standing up for absolute truth in an environment that is massively politically correct – it’s just assumed that everyone’s beliefs must be accepted and considered equally valid. Even little things like the use of the word ‘partner’ which assumes all relationships are equal can be hard.
There are difficulties more specific to nursing too. I work in a unit where life and death decisions are made about resuscitating patients and withdrawing treatment and sometimes it’s hard to accept the criteria on which those decisions are made.
Rachel H The people who work here are very, very focused on their careers. That means you are expected to work to such an extent that there is no space for anything else in your life. The very first week I was asked to work all weekend, I told them I didn’t want to work on Sunday and got a very cold reception – the person I was working for really didn’t ever take me seriously after that.
How did you find and settle into a church once you finished being a student?
Rachel B I’ve been really blessed by staying in the same city and the same church as when I was a student – the support of people in the fellowship and the encouraging teaching have really helped me make the transition from student to qualified nurse.
Rachel H Initially I wanted to join a smaller church and found one but I was working so much I couldn’t go mid-week. It was really hard to get involved and I felt like I was disappointing people the whole time. In the end I’ve joined a big church in London and go to a fellowship group there. I feel like I’m doing more taking rather than giving which is not ideal but all I can manage at the moment.
Tim I asked my parents if they knew anywhere and they got me a list of churches in my area. I had a set of criteria of things I knew I wanted from a church: strong biblical teaching, a friendly place with other people my age. I went to two of the churches on my list and then found the one I’m in at the moment. To begin with I wasn’t sure whether it was the right place but I made friends quite quickly and really felt welcomed so I stayed!
How much do you earn? What problems and difficulties does that bring?
Rachel B I earn £15,900 plus unsociable hours money. Having been a student for 5 years I have found a challenge in being a wise steward of far more money than I’ve ever had before. It’s hard not to be materialistic and easy to pretend that things you ‘want’ are things you ‘need.’
Rachel H I earn £28,000. The hard part is that people you work with come to expect large amounts of money. Within a month of arriving we got a £4,000 p/a pay rise and a few weeks later people were still complaining that they only just had enough to live on. You can end up thinking that you deserve lots of expensive meals out, nice clothes and so on. I was in South America for 6 months before I started work and that made it easier to deal with the money as I was really aware how much more I had than most people in the world. The positive side of working in a highly paid job of course is that you have lots of money to give away!
Tim £32,000. The good thing is that I have some friends who are students so I can offer people meals and help them out. The disadvantage is that it’s really easy to spend it all on clothes and ‘stuff’ that I don’t really need!
Which parts of your job do you like and not like and why?
Tim I like the fact that there’s a lot of variety each day – working on different projects for different companies. I’ve got a group of great people that I work with and the atmosphere is really relaxed and fun.
What I don’t enjoy is the company politics. I’ve been here for a few years so it’s increasingly hard to escape the back-stabbing. It’s difficult to bring a Christian attitude to the way you behave towards people who speak badly of others.
Rachel B Being able to care for people is a real privilege, although it’s not always easy. I love the way that no two days are the same and you never know what’s going to happen next! Although it may sound like a cliché it’s a profession where you really have an opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives and that can be very satisfying.
I don’t like working nights and weekends and an irregular shift pattern can make it hard to commit regularly to things. It can also be really hard to switch off after a particularly stressful or emotionally demanding shift.
Rachel H I like the intellectual challenge and the fact that the people I work with are motivated and interested in what they do. My company is keen on developing people and so we get lots of good training.
I really dislike the ethos of money and ambition and I’m not convinced by the moral values of all of the clients we work for. When I was living in South America lots of people in our town had no water because a big multi-national company had bought up the supply and massively increased the charges. When I started work I found that that company was one of our clients. It’s really hard working for companies when you don’t know what the economic or political implications of what you do can be.
What opportunities for evangelism are there in your life?
Rachel B I find I have lots of chances at work to talk about Christ and how my beliefs affect my lifestyle. Nights can be a good time for that as there is more chance to chat and we’ve discussed many ethical issues where I can put across a Christian perspective. When a death occurs it can be a hard time for staff and provides an opportunity to talk about eternal things. I’ve also made an effort to keep in contact with my course mates from training so there are continued opportunities to share the gospel with them.
Tim Lots! I am the only Christian I know of in my company, which employs 120 people. When I first started my boss told me that I wasn’t to tell anyone else that I was a Christian because I’d get really negative reactions. Actually though many of the reactions are quite positive - people are intrigued by the fact that I’m a Christian! Lots of the best conversations happen after work in the pub though so you have to be prepared to give time to get to know people.
How do you think people nearing the end of their time at University could best prepare themselves for life as a Christian in the workplace?
Rachel B It’s helpful to talk to Christians who have made the transition recently and to build up and maintain good support networks for yourself – it can be an uncertain time. Make it a priority to establish yourself in a local church – especially if you are moving to a new place – as the CU will no longer be there and it’s really important to receive good teaching. Be prepared that life will be different but remember that there are lots of new and exciting opportunities!
Rachel H You need to think about your priorities and be convinced in your own mind about key issues before you start, for example, what will you attitude be to working on Sundays? Also make sure you decide how much of your money you will give before it arrives in the bank or you’ll spend it all.